Opening Chinese Splendour Dunedin Public Art Gallery

  • Marie Hasler
Cultural Affairs

Good evening everyone.

And a special good evening to our distinguished guests from China and our diplomatic representatives from the Embassy of the People's Republic of China, in Wellington.

I am delighted to have the honour tonight of opening this impressive exhibition - Chinese Splendour: 5000 years of art from the Shanghai Museum. Thank you Deputy Mayor Dame Elizabeth Hanan for your kind words of introduction.

I am also pleased to welcome to New Zealand and Dunedin the Vice Mayor of Shanghai, Mr Han Zheng. Thank you for joining us for the opening of this fine exhibition of antiquities from your city of Shangai.

And a warm welcome to the Director of the Shanghai Museum, Ma Chengyuan; Director's Assistant, Jin Yuwen; and Zhu Shuyi, Senior Curator, Department of Arts and Crafts.

Professor Ma is a specialist in Chinese bronze and ancient Chinese characters. Since becoming Director of the Shanghai Museum in 1985 Professor Ma's achievement has ensured the research, rescue and conservation of cultural relics and the construction of a new museum building.

I would also like to acknowledge Murray Douglas, Chief Executive Officer of the Dunedin City Council and Priscilla Pitts, Director of the Dunedin Public Art Gallery. I know these two people have worked incredibly hard to bring this wonderful exhibition to your city.

This exhibition is a high point for both the New Zealand cultural scene and for Dunedin. And it is certainly fitting for this exhibition to come to Dunedin as this city has a special sister-city relationship with Shanghai in the People's Republic of China.

The Dunedin Public Art Gallery has cemented this relationship and has jointly organised the exhibition with the Shanghai Museum, and with the support of the Community Trust of Otago.

I am also very pleased Chinese Splendour has been indemnified by the New Zealand Government. As New Zealand is geographically isolated the Government indemnification scheme is particularly important in enabling these major exhibitions to come here.

The Government scheme has recently been reviewed and modified to further encourage our museums to bring significant international touring exhibitions to New Zealand.

It is important for New Zealanders to have the opportunity to experience the cultures of other countries - which are of course the cultures which play a part in the evolving cultural identity of New Zealand.

Since 1973 when diplomatic relations were established between New Zealand and the People's Republic of China, our country has benefited greatly from China's active cultural exchange programme.

This is the second major exhibition to come here from China. Many New Zealanders will remember the wonder excited by the exhibition of terracotta figures from the Buried Army of Emperor Qin Shi Huang, that toured throughout New Zealand in the late nineteen eighties.

I have no doubt the beauty, grace and diversity of the Chinese Splendour exhibition will prove similarly memorable.

Spanning 5000 years of Chinese history this exhibition features nearly 100 of the finest works from the Shanghai Museum.

Chinese Splendour is the first time we in New Zealand have had the opportunity to see the kind of rare and priceless antiquities that keep breaking museum and art gallery visitor records overseas.

I believe this is a wonderful opportunity for people to see works from one of the world's richest and most renowned collections.

A feast for the eyes this exhibition includes priceless bronzes, jades, ceramics and paintings, representing high points of Chinese culture from the Neolithic age through to 1911, the end of the Qing dynasty.

I note the earliest treasures include 5000-year-old jade objects and ancient bronze vessels from the eighteenth century BC. Other highlights include landscape masterpieces from the Ming (1368-1644) and Quing (1644-1911) periods and ceramic art representing Neolithic earthenware to the finest porcelain.

I understand this exhibition continues here until June 17 before moving to the Waikato Museum of Art and History from 15 July until 10 October. This ensures many more New Zealanders will have the opportunity to see this significant exhibition.

I would like to congratulate all those involved in bringing this exhibition to Dunedin. For the Dunedin Public Art Gallery this exhibition aptly follows on from last year's successful Masterpieces from the Guggenheim Museum show.

Congratulations to you all. I now take great pleasure in declaring this exhibition of exquisite treasures open.